Eviction notices posted to homeless encampment at Madison park as city claims to have ‘sufficient alternatives’

One option is a hotel on Madison’s far east side.
The City of Madison says homeless campers settled at a park must move out by early next month.
Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 8:34 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 24, 2021 at 10:24 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The City of Madison says homeless campers settled at a park must move out by early next month, in light of alternative temporary housing options, including a hotel.

According to an eviction notice, the illegal encampment at Reindahl Park must be cleared out by Dec. 6. The city wrote that it is prepared to throw out leftover property, remove all portable toilets and begin enforcing the ordinance that prohibits overnight camping.

Eviction notice at Reindahl Park
Eviction notice at Reindahl Park(WMTV)

According to the city’s community development division, roughly 40 campers remain at Reindahl Park. Officials say outreach teams are working to educate them about the several options they have for temporary shelter.

“As part of both the establishment of the Dairy Drive campground site and the use of this hotel and the availability of shelter space-- we’re operating at about 50 percent capacity at the men’s shelter-- we believe that there are sufficient alternatives now available for people to allow us to proceed with the closing of that encampment,” Jim O’Keefe, director of the community development division, said.

Move-in started this week for homeless guests at the Madison Plaza Hotel on Madison’s far east side, according to the city. The goal is to check in a couple people a day, to fill the 35 hotel rooms by the Dec. 6 eviction deadline.

Campers from Reindahl Park will get priority for hotel space over other homeless populations in the city, O’Keefe said.

“They’re prioritized because it’s a group of people that have been using the park that are particularly vulnerable,” he said. “Reindahl Park is not equipped for the use that’s been made of it during the course of the summer and fall.”

It has been illegal to camp at Reindahl Park since April, when Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway advised city staff to close down what had been authorized as an encampment during the pandemic.

Following a city resolution adopted last week, the city will cover the $1.5 million hotel project using federal dollars for pandemic relief. The city plans to occupy the space until June.

Since the fall, Dane County officials have covered a hundred rooms in the hotel for people experiencing homelessness.

Temporary housing at the hotel will also come with support services for long-term housing. Focus Counseling is contracted with the city and county to run the programs.

Shane Quella, a program supervisor with Focus Counseling, said, “You’re going to see our support specialists working really hard on things like getting people IDs or checking on their social security. You’re going to see case managers probably calling a lot of landlords, trying to advocate for our clients, to get them into housing.”

While the hotel is an option for now, Quella said the goal is not to keep guests at the hotel forever.

“We are also moving people out weekly, in hopes of making room to try to help as many people as we can,” he said.

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